Friday, July 23, 2010

Hot Rods and Rare Toth

One of the cool things about artists like Alex Toth is that you can stumble across their work in what might seem the unlikeliest of places. About ten years ago my son-in-law gave me a small stack of motoring cartoon magazines, and in a couple of them there were some real gems. Here are two short stories not just drawn but also written by Alex Toth. The first is from CARtoons 26 (December 1965), and is a nice example of the growing influence of the Women's Movement:

The next is a three page short about the trials and tribulations of a corporate executive in the automobile industry, from Hot Rod Cartoons 6 (Sept 1965):

Hope you enjoyed seeing these as much as I did.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The De-Evolution of Nellie the Nurse: Part VI of VI

In this final post looking at the way Nellie the Nurse morphed over two decades, we're going to take a look at writer John Stanley's version in Dell's Four Color 1304, with cover and interior art by king of medical cartoons, Kaz (Lawrence Katzman).

John Stanley's work is covered in detail on the blog 'Stanley's Stories', and I know only what I've read on there, so I'm referring you over there. Kaz is a world-renowned cartoonist, who had been drawing Nellie the Nurse cartoons that have appeared in newspapers since the early 50s before he produced this 1962 Dell one-off. There were numerous compilations of his Nellie cartoons in the 50s and 60s, and you can read all about it on his website, the Kaz Cartoonstore. Here I'm including a couple of stories from Nellie the Nurse 1304. In this first one we see that this Nellie is also a red-head like the original Marvel character, but she's not the sizzling hot babe of the Marvel 'good girl' days. If I can draw your attention to page 5 of this story, you'll see that this Nellie has more than a hint of desperation in her pursuit of the handsome doctor who, despite having Nellie's full attention, let's his eyes and mind wander onto the form of a passing buxom blond. The older, gray-haired, bespectacled nurse in the story is a Miss, again conforming to the stereotype of the battleaxe - the spinster who sacrificed marriage and family for a career - the warning to those young nurses to remember that nursing is just a fill-in between school and marriage. If you can find your husband while you're working in the hospital, so much the better!

This next one shows the Dell Nellie's ability to muddle her way through to eventual success.

Finally, here's the back cover with a few more nice color Kaz Nellie cartoons.

Personally I think it's seriously time for Marvel to put together some high quality reprint volumes of their 1940s and 50s career girl books. The Nellie the Nurse or Tessie the Typist Omnibus, or the Marvel Masterworks Millie the Model Volume 1 would be top of my Christmas list the second they were published!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The De-Evolution of Nellie the Nurse: Part V of VI

Atlas published a single issue in volume 2 of Nellie the Nurse in 1957. The stories are signed by Stan Lee and are basically re-worked themes or gags from old Nellie books from the original series. Probably Stan was testing the water to see if there was still a market for watered down post-code good girl art, and the kind of humor that made Nellie successful in the late 40s. Clearly the answer was no. I would suggest that Archie Comics pretty much had the teen humor market covered in the late 50s. The choice of Bill Everett for the art is interesting. Considering he drew Namor and Venus, this deCarlo-ish style certainly isn't typical of him. The cover image here is from the internet, and the selected story scans are not mine - I don't yet own a copy of this rarity. The copy these were scanned from is clearly 'burnt' with age - probably found in a hot, humid garage or attic somewhere.

Nellie's back to being innocent but not so dumb, kind of a reprise of the late 40s Nellie around issue 15-20. Now she's a blond, and still has a shapely figure with a tight (but not as tight as before) uniform and realistically proportioned breasts. Her arch-rival Pam is still around, as is Dr. Dingbat and Miss Witherspoon, but the young men have been reduced to one, with a name change.

In this next short we're seeing the 'battle-axe" nurse stereotype - the older unattractive spinster whose dedication to career may have resulted in some advancement in rank, but at the cost of romance.

The nurse's search for a doctor as a partner in love and marriage has become the assumed norm.

This coloring page suggests the comic is aimed at a younger readership, although the humor, swiped from the cover of an earlier issue, might not appeal to the coloring pencil brigade.

Finally, this 3-page short at the end of the book suggests nurses are literally run off their feet with work. The doctor doesn't seem to be doing much, but he's a man, so that's okay (!). A relict of the old good girl art tactic of giving glimpses of Nellie's undergarment as she's running (often used in the 40s and 50s with a breeze-induced lifting of the edge of the dress or skirt to show a lacy edge to a slip underneath) is in evidence. Basically, though, despite this being Bill Everett's work, and it's nicely executed, it's a shadow of good girl art.

That was the end of Nellie the Nurse for Marvel. Dell's Nellie actually came from a different lineage, and I'm not sure how the Atlas and newspaper strip that was the basis for Four Color 1304 could have coexisted legally. Anyway, we'll see a change in concept and artistic style in the final part of this look at the de-evolution of Nellie the Nurse.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The De-Evolution of Nellie the Nurse: Part IV of VI

As the 1950s gets under way, Nellie the Nurse artwork is provided by Howie Post. Howie's young women are all boobs and butts, reduced to those components of womanhood which are of most interest to males. Nellie is advertised across the top of the cover as 'America's Red-Headed Riot'. Along with her accentuated female bodily features, Nellie is not much of a thinker. She's a dumb red-headed provider of visual stimulation for the opposite sex. Stan Lee has obviously pushed the title over into straight gag humor. It not longer seems to qualify as good girl art because it's too cartoony, although the mammary glands and hourglass figure are still there, even the odd lingerie panel. Doesn't have the same effect as, for example, Bill Ward's Torchy, though.

I wonder if Nellie wears one of those bras with the stiff, cone-shaped cups to give her that bust line, or if she's just naturally endowed with such prominent female attributes. I guess we'll never know. Again, there's no longer much to do with the work of nurses or hospitals in the book. It was eventually canceled with the October 1952 issue, to be resurrected in 1957 for one issue with art by none other than Bill Everett. In the next post in this blog series we'll take a look at how Bill interpreted Nellie, before going on to her final demise at Dell. With Howie Post's degenerative female figures I see a parallel with the devaluation of women after World War II, with their enforced departure from the jobs they had held during the war and their return home to suburban domestic bliss. The de-evolution of Nellie the Nurse, with nurses always at this time being the prominent example of the career woman, is the decline of woman's status following the war, the reassertion of male dominance and the re-establishment of full patriarchy in society. Nellie gets dumber and dumber as the series progresses, and more and more reduced to breasts, buttocks, thighs, tiny waist, and a pretty face.

On the topic of good girl art, if Howie Post's Nellie fails to retain sufficient criteria to qualify as GGA, there were certainly good examples in earlier issues of the title, as we've already seen. Many were 52 page comics, containing other Timely career girl humor features, such as Tessie the Typist, and here, Hedy DeVine.

Plenty of lingerie panels in that one, and along with Stan Lee's Hedy as an example of how women stereotypically behave, we've got a nice picture of what women were supposedly about in the 1940s and early 50s.